EXPORT and trade lamb prices have held up in the last week of sales before Christmas despite a record weekly turnoff of sheep and lambs at Hamilton in south-west Victoria.
Producers in all states this week pushed woolly lambs into saleyards and direct to works to capture the high prices, avoiding shearing during the shearer shortage, as warm weather dominated the landscape and matured pasture.
Processors finding it difficult to source quality finished lambs to meet export and domestic demand have been booking significant consignments direct to works, but several continued saleyard buying to meet strong demand.
After sales finished yesterday, Meat & Livestock Australia’s National Market Reporting Service reported the Eastern States daily heavy lamb indicator dropped only 5 cents to 874c/kg, to be still seven cents above the level at the same time last week. The trade lamb indicator fell just 3 cents to 854c/kg, one cent higher week-on-week.
Reflecting the influx of secondary and lighter lambs into saleyards, the light lamb indicator fell 10 cents to 894c/kg, 6 cents lower week-on-week, and the restocker indicator also dropped 10 cents to 914c/kg, 25 cents lower than last week. The Merino lamb indicator fell just 3 cents top 783c/kg, still 7 cents up week-on-week.
The biggest change for the week was the 23-cent fall in the ESDI for mutton to 601c/kg, 38 cents down week-on-week, that prompted buying activity from agents on younger ewe lines.
In Hamilton, after 39,063 lambs on Monday, another 62,500 on Wednesday and 18,100 sheep on Thursday, agents had yarded a record 119,663 sheep and lambs, beating the previous weekly yarding record by 9663 head.
Heavy lamb prices reached a new peak for Hamilton on Wednesday, with young Casterton producer Hugh Foster’s 28 Poll Dorset cross lambs selling for a record $330 to Gathercole through LMB Linke and Livestock. The estimated carcase weight of the lambs was 38kgs. He also sold another seven lambs for $290 as part of a larger line offered by his father Rick Foster. Mr Foster’s top line of Poll Dorset cross lambs made $327 and another Suffolk cross lambs made $294.
Mr Foster said the lambs were the last of 7000 he had marketed this season, 80pc of them over the hooks.
“It’s been a good year all round, although you don’t set out to set these records.”
He said the same export buyers were returning to buy the ‘Haven Park’ lambs each year.
Mr Foster said the Hamilton agents had done a great job processing the record number of sheep and lambs through the market. With the income and employment the sheep and lamb sales brought into the city and district, the effort deserved national recognition, he said.
“It’s a hell of an effort by farmers, truck drivers, all the agents and people associated with it, and it’s not a one-off, it’s been going on for a few weeks.
“I think it is disappointing that it doesn’t get more recognition.”
Macarthur Poll Dorset breeder and lamb producer Linton Price was happy with the $262 he was paid for 23 33kg lambs and the $253 paid for 68 28kg lambs. The lambs were by Moora Hills rams out of Corriedale-East Friesian/BorderLeicester cross ewes.
Hamilton Regional Livestock Exchange manager Chris Dahlenburg said the 62,500 lamb yarding on Wednesday was not the highest at Hamilton, but this week the combined sheep and lamb record was broken. Mr Dahlenburg said about 117 pens in the cattle yards had to be used on Wednesday to contain the lambs.
Hamilton Stock Agents Association president Warren Clark said everyone associated with the record Hamilton yarding needed to be congratulated.
“Everyone has put in, from drovers, to truckies, to agents, to farmers, you don’t do it on your own.”
Mr Clark said the physical saleyard is still where the base prices for sheep and lambs are set, despite the influence of the over-the-hook grids and forward contracts.
He said lamb demand is currently very very strong, especially for export lambs, and a lot of lambs had been sold early from northern areas of the state.
“All the lambs produced in the North aren’t around, but they will come back onto the market in February-March,” he said.
“The store market is underpinning the market at the moment.”
Mr Clark said a lot of late Spring-drop lambs were sold in Hamilton on Wednesday.
“Because they don’t want to bring them through Summer.”
Hamilton saleyards has biggest week yet
The NLRS said Hamilton agents yarded 39,063 lambs on Monday, whose quality ranged from very good to plain with very few heavy lambs. There were more lambs showing signs of dryness once away from the top end. There was a near-full field of buyers, but not all were fully active.
Restocking competition continued in a market that started off very subdued to be $10-$15 softer, but gathered momentum to be firm to $5 stronger over most categories, with the very heavy lambs 24kg to 26kg and over 26kg to be $15-$20 stronger.
Light 12-16kg new season lambs made from $117-$172, with most of these going back to the paddock. Trade lambs 18-22kg made $164-$210, to average 820-880c/kg cwt. Medium trade lambs 22-26kg made $182-$270 to average 860-910c/kg. Heavy lambs over 26kgs made to $293.
On Wednesday, the NLRS said Hamilton’s record-breaking 62,500 lambs were very good to plain quality types, with a large quantity of lambs suitable for the paddock. There was a full field of buyers, but not all were fully engaged. Restocking activity and competition was still a force on the light weight and new season lambs in a market that at times could be best described as erratic.
Trade lambs were fully firm; however, all lambs destined back to the paddock were generally $10-$15 cheaper early in the sale. As the sale progressed these improved to be only slightly cheaper. New season light weight lambs, 12-16kg made $94-$175 back to the paddock.
Trade lambs, 18-22kg made $156-$223, averaging 850-910c/kg. Medium trade lambs 22-26kg sold from $199-$263, or around 880-930/kg. Heavy lambs over 26kg made to $330 and hoggets sold to $185.
At Hamilton on Thursday, agents yarded 18,100 excellent quality sheep, with all weights and grades available. A near-full field of buyers attended, though not all were fully active. The market started softer by $10-$15, but gained momentum to be $5-$10/head cheaper in places over most categories. Heavy crossbred ewes made to $215, with the well-covered Merino ewes making $146-$212. Wethers sold to $220 and the average run of Merino mutton made 550-600c/kg, with very good wethers selling to 650-700c/kg. Terminal rams sold to $85 and Merinos made to $150.
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